Irish cross-border bid to be made to host Tour de France Grand Départ

This article originally appeared on Velo News

Over two decades after Ireland saw the start of the Tour de France in 1998, governments on both sides of the border have confirmed a bid to host the Grand Depart for years to come.

Republic Sport Minister Catherine Martin and Northern Ireland Business Minister Gordon Lyons both said on Wednesday that an expression of interest had been submitted to tour organizer ASO, with 2026 or 2027 being the preferred dates.

“Hosting the world’s greatest cycle race would be an exciting opportunity for the island of Ireland,” said Martin, a Green Party member of the Irish Dail [parliament].

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The race started 24 years ago for the only time in Ireland but was overshadowed by the Festina affair. As a result, the country did not achieve the expected return on investment and had to wait until 2014 for another Irish Grand Tour to begin.

Then the first three days of the Giro d’Italia took place in the countryside, with two stages starting and finishing in Belfast and the third crossing the border and ending in Dublin.

Pat McQuaid and Alan Rushton played a role in starting the tour, while McQuaid’s brother Darach played a fundamental role in the Giro Grande Partenza. The latter has not yet responded to a request for comment VeloNews whether he would be involved in the tender.

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Martin and Lyons spoke about the importance of the tour and also its benefits for the country as a whole.

“Our combined experience in hosting major sporting events, our collaborative approach in marketing the whole of Ireland as a tourist destination and the beautiful countryside and Cead Mile all failed [welcome – ed.] that awaits visitors to Ireland could add up to a fantastic event for the whole island.”

Lyons of the Democratic Unionist Party was similarly optimistic, saying hosting the opening stage would be “a fantastic opportunity for Northern Ireland to appear on the world stage and add to the growing list of major sporting events that have come here in recent years.

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“People will fondly remember the success of the Giro d’Italia ‘Big Start’ in 2014 and I am confident that together we can make the Grand Depart a success,” said Lyons. “Major events like this not only bring about tremendous economic benefits, but give us a tremendous opportunity to showcase all that is great about Northern Ireland.”

<span-Klasse="Artikel__Beschriftung">Nicolas Roche leads the Tinkoff Saxo squad at the start of the 2014 Giro d’Italia at the Titanic Belfast.  </span> (Photo: Niall Carson/PA Images via Getty Images)” data-src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTY1NQ–/https://–~B/aD00OTE7dz03MjA7YXBwaWQ9eXRhY2h5b24-/>7.7061d>7.7061d>7.7061d><noscript><img alt=Nicolas Roche leads the Tinkoff Saxo squad at the start of the 2014 Giro d’Italia at the Titanic Belfast. (Photo by Niall Carson/PA Images via Getty Images)” src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTY1NQ–/https://s.–~B/aD00OTE7dz03MjA7YXBwaWQ9eXRhY2h5b24-/>class=”f7461″d47>

Nicolas Roche leads the Tinkoff Saxo squad at the start of the 2014 Giro d’Italia at the Titanic Belfast. (Photo: Niall Carson/PA Images via Getty Images)

Ireland’s Minister of State for Sport, Jack Chambers, also commented on Wednesday’s application for the race and spoke of “a huge untapped potential for the island of Ireland to host major events”.

He also said that a Grand Depart in the country “would have the potential to bring benefits to communities on our common island.”

Martin met with Lyons about the offer and said she plans to move things further in the near future.

“This collaborative process has my full support and I will be sharing it with colleagues across government over the coming weeks.”

The absence of Irish riders in the peloton meant that no local competitors competed at the start of the 1998 Tour de France, dampening their potential advantages. However, Irish cycling is now in far better health and Sam Bennett, Eddie Dunbar, Ryan Mullen, Ben Healy and up-and-coming contenders like Archie Ryan and Darren Rafferty would be hoping to be part of a Grand Depart next time should Ireland bid be successful.

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